One Important Ingredient Missing from Mobile App Case Studies

It’s easy to get into designing the UX of a new groundbreaking app and miss a great opportunity right from the start.

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Photo by Yux Xiang on Unsplash

I like to read case studies, both from beginners and from more experienced designers. Especially mobile app case studies — ever since I saw the first iPhone I’ve been captivated by the fact how much potential for making our lives better can be hiding in such a tiny device.

Now, it’s easy to skip the obvious things, especially when we’re just getting into a new field and we want to become UX designers. There’s a lot to learn and the amount of new knowledge required to put a single project on the desk is vast.

But it still baffles me to this day that it’s not really often mentioned in UX design courses that your new app will become a part of a larger ecosystem which has plenty of places we can reach into.

I’m talking about the context of the smartphone itself. The environment and the opportunities it gives us.

Granted, we’re well aware that we’re creating an app that will be interacted with using fingers to tap on a touchscreen. But let’s consider other things as well and see if our app can benefit from them.

  1. A smartphone has plenty of sensors we can use to make our app much better in unconventional ways that will distinguish our app from the competition. Motivation and goal tracking for learning new healthy habits? There’s 1000 of those there already. It’s nice to check things off a list. But what if we could use the sensors to track users’ progress automatically and check items off the list automatically?
  2. Other apps installed on a smartphone are often a gold mine of data we can plug into and use in our app. Apple has the Health app where we can find all sorts of useful data about the users and use that to help them achieve their goals. In the area of health it will also save us from having to integrate various other apps separately as they will all write some data to the Health app. Mindful minutes? No need to implement a feature to track those ourselves — we can recommend using a dedicated app for that and just get the data.

And it’s not limited to mobile devices. All platforms work this way and it’s a terrible loss if we don’t consider all those interconnected aspects right from the start. It’s a lush ecosystem, like a forest and almost everything can be connected with everything else.

I would like to propose a few new items to add to a beginners’ UX checklist and an additional workflow for studying UX in general, a kind of expansion on the typical approach when we’re checking out competing products.

Even better, let’s make it a proactive habit that plugs right into the usual curiosity that’s typical for designers. Let’s ask an important question:

What others give us that we can use as a building block in our own products?

I believe that this question opens up a new field of thinking. Especially if we’re just starting out on our UX journey. Here’s some ideas and actions we can take based on that question:

Check out the official documentation for the platform

I know, it’s technical, it’s about coding. But you don’t really need to get into the details, as I’ve explained in my other article, Should UX designers learn to code? An ex-developer’s perspective.

We’re talking about the possibilities here. So, go find out what the platform has to offer. If needed, ask fellow developers to give you some hints.

Apple, for example provides frameworks for various things. There’s a framework that allows you to easily get Health app data. There’s a framework for easily implementing FaceID and so on.

How to do that? Google for “developer documentation [name of your platform]”.

Check out the apps you already use

Take a look at all the apps you already have installed. Many of those provide APIs for integrating with other apps. API just means: programmers can connect something to that app, by the way.

Let’s take Todoist as an example. It’s a to-do/task app. It has an API which allows you to check projects and tasks and create your own.

Why not integrate your next habit tracking app with Todoist and add an option to track if user is completing tasks and reward them additionally? Or maybe your app wants to help users keep track of some tasks? You can add those to Todoist automatically for the user to schedule and take action.

How to do that? Check the apps website, look for docs for developers, Google for “app name API” or “app name integration”.

Benefits

I believe that the benefits here can be vast. You will get a wider overview of the platform and its possibilities. You will get tons of inspiration. You can also notice something that’s missing from a few apps that are popular and commonly used together and integrate all of them to make users’ life even easier and more productive.

Written by

Future dad, 9to5: tech support agent. I write about the User Experience of learning programming.

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